Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Himachal Cabinet expansion: 7 ministers take oath

After a four-week wait, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu expanded his cabinet on Sunday with the induction of seven ministers, including Vikramaditya Singh – the son of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and state Congress president Pratibha Singh.
The strength of the cabinet has now risen to nine. Only Sukhu and his deputy Mukesh Agnihotri were sworn in on December 11 following Congress’ win in the hill state. Three berths are still vacant as the maximum number of ministers, including the chief minister, cannot exceed 12.
Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar administered the oath of office to the newly inducted ministers at the Raj Bhawan.
The party apparently tried to placate Sukhu’s rival camp led by Pratibha Singh, who lost out in the chief ministerial race, with the induction of her son Vikramaditya Singh, two-time MLA from Shimla (Rural).
Among the new ministers, Harshwardhan Chauhan, a six-time MLA elected from Shillai, three-time MLA elected from Kasumpti Anirudh Singh and four-time MLA Rohit Thakur from Jubbal-Kotkhai are considered close to the chief minister.
The other ministers are eldest MLA Dhani Ram Shandil, a former minister elected from Solan; Chander Kumar, a former minister and six-time MLA from Jawali in Kangra district; and Jagat Singh Negi, a former deputy speaker and five-time MLA from tribal Kinnaur district.
Shimla district with seven MLAs has been given the lion’s share in the cabinet with three ministers while Bilaspur, Mandi, Kullu and Lahaul and Spiti districts are unrepresented in the cabinet. Kangra with 10 MLAs got one berth.
Chief Minister Sukhu also appointed six Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPS), who enjoy the same facilities as ministers.
Leader of Opposition in Himachal Pradesh Assembly Jai Ram Thakur alleged that the Congress government has failed to give adequate representation to various regions in the cabinet expansion.
The BJP leader and former chief minister also criticised the government over the appointment of six chief parliamentary secretaries, saying it would put a burden of crores of rupees on the state exchequer.
Out of the 13 appointments made by the Congress government, eight MLAs have been appointed from Shimla parliamentary constituency while the rest of the three parliamentary constituencies have not been given adequate share, Thakur said in a statement here.
The BJP had been targeting the Congress government over the delay in Cabinet expansion. The Congress high command had on Saturday evening approved the names of ministers after Sukhu handed over the list of probables.
Out of the nine ministers, five are from Shimla Parliamentary constituency, two from Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency and one each from Kangra and Mandi parliamentary constituencies.
The ministers include five Rajputs, and one member each from Brahmin, Schedule Tribe, Scheduled Caste and OBC categories.
Later, Chief Minister Sukhu told reporters that MLAs with a clean image have been inducted into the cabinet on the basis of merit and the districts that were left out would get representation in due course.
The CPS included Sunder Singh Thakur from Kullu, Mohan Lal Brakta from Rohroo in Shimla district, Ram Kumar Chowdhary from Doon in Solan district, Ashish Butail from Palampur and Kishori Lal from Baijnath in Kangra district and Sanjay Awasthi from Arki in Solan district.
Efforts have been made to balance the claims of rival factions but caste and regional imbalances still exist, political observers said.
Meanwhile, police had a tough time controlling hundreds of enthusiastic supporters who tried to forcibly enter the already-packed Darbar hall of Raj Bhawan here during the oath-taking ceremony and even damaged two doors.
Congress workers and supporters danced to traditional music outside the Bhawan. All roads to the governor’s official residence were choked with vehicles and pedestrians.
The police struggled to control the surging crowds and many people forced their way into the main hall. Glass panes of two doors were broken as the people tried to enter the Durbar Hall during the swearing-in ceremony.
The residents of Shimla were jubilant as three ministers are from the district. A large number of supporters, raising slogans, followed the newly inducted ministers to the State Secretariat.
The Congress has won 40 out of 68 assembly seats including 10 seats from Kangra, seven from Shimla, four each in Una, Solan, and Hamirpur, three in Sirmaur, two each in Chamba and Kullu, and one each in Mandi, Bilaspur, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti district.

SourcePTI
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